ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Raising the age of criminality was a topic of discussion at a meeting in Albany Monday night.
Local groups called on the city of Albany to support raising the criminal age of responsibility in New York State. The measure failed to pass in the last legislative session leaving New York as one of just two states that automatically prosecute 16 and 17-year-olds as adults.
A group will be rallied outside of city hall Monday night in honor of Marquis Dixon, who was sentenced to nine years for stealing sneakers when he was 16-years old.
His mother, Aisha Dixon, chanted along with members of Capital Area Against Mass Incarcerations. Albany County District Attorney David Soares said Dixon was armed at the time of the robbery, but his family said the sentence was too harsh.
“He can’t go get no alcohol or he can’t go buy no cigarettes, but he can go sit inside a prison facility for nine years,” Aisha said.
Dixon explained to the Albany Common Council why she wanted the age of criminal responsibility raised to 18.
“My son sees riots, seeing people getting stabbed,” she said. “He woke up out of his cell at 2 a.m. in the morning. Somebody died next to him in his cell.”
Alicia Barraza, of Albany, also spoke out. Her son, Ben VanZandt, was sentenced to at 17-years old to four to 12 years in state prison for arson. He committed suicide in prison at the age of 21.
“He became a victim of sexual abuse by older inmates,” Barraza said. “He became a victim of physical and emotional abuse.”
Cheers could be heard as the common council passed a resolution in support of the Raise the Age campaign. But the resolution is only an acknowledgment.
In order to actually change the age to 18, it would have to become a state law.
“Apprenticeship and mentorship. All of those things are probably a better option for kids than for them to sit in jail,” John Brown, of Albany, said.
Although, the council passed the resolution, they hope the state legislature will also pass it in the upcoming session.